COLLEGE PARK — History will smile on the University of Maryland's move to the Big Ten, and the school's football and other athletic teams can compete in the new conference right away, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said in an appearance on campus Tuesday.
"We're ready for Maryland," Delany said. "Everyone in the Big Ten is excited. We believe it's going to be a mutually beneficial partnership."
Delany was in College Park for a symposium on the school's move to the Big Ten, held by the university's Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism. He was joined in the broad-ranging conversation at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union by Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson and several influential alumni, including Regent Tom McMillen and broadcasters Bonnie Bernstein and Scott Van Pelt.
University president Wallace Loh announced the change in conferences nearly a year ago, saying Big Ten television money would bring long-term stability to a financially strapped athletic department. Maryland teams will begin Big Ten play next year.
But the departure from the Atlantic Coast Conference has been contentious, with the university and conference locked in a legal battle over the $52 million exit fee ACC officials are demanding. That dispute is unfolding in a North Carolina courtroom.
Delany said the Big Ten would not help defray the ultimate cost of the exit fee.
The planned move also has caused unrest among some students and alumni, who have become accustomed to the university's ACC rivalries after 61 years in the conference.
"I think some people are still having difficulty putting their arms around it," Anderson said. "Every day, more people see that it was a great opportunity for the institution. It will allow us to be global."
Several critics sat on the symposium panel.
McMillen praised the boldness of the move but said he remains troubled by the haste of the decision. Many regents learned of the impending move only a few days before it was finalized last November.
"I just don't think a university should run that way," McMillen said.
He recalled ACC officials calling him as the decision was pending, searching for some scrap of information on the university's plans. "When you've been in business for 60 years and you can't pick up the phone because of a confidentiality agreement, I don't think that's how the process should work," he said.
Delany agreed that the process wasn't ideal but said the conference had to move swiftly and quietly because several other institutions were seeking the same spot.
"Overall, history will judge this well," he said. "In the short term, it wouldn't judge the process well."
Bernstein said she was furious when the news broke. "I was shocked," she recalled. "Who am I going to hate in the Big Ten as much as I hate Duke?"
Van Pelt recalled his own negative reaction but said the university will benefit from the Big Ten's TV riches. The ESPN anchor and radio co-host joked that his network would be among those filling the coffers.
He said the Big Ten's interest showed that someone "finally sees us at the prettiest girl at the dance, which we are."
The panel also discussed the Maryland football team's chances of competing in the Big Ten, which includes such traditional powers as Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.
"We are going to compete right away," Anderson said.
Delany said Maryland has the "assets and capacity to fully compete." He added that winning will be important to the university's adapting to its new home. "Texas A&M fell in love with the SEC when they beat Alabama [in football]," he said, alluding to another high-profile conference shift.
Van Pelt dismissed concerns about Maryland football. "I don't know who's terrified of this," he said. "The idea that we're going to get our doors blown off by this conference that isn't frightening anyone right now, I don't know who's saying that. I'm not saying that."
He also fielded a question about his recent on-air criticism of student support at football games. "I don't pick on them," Van Pelt said. "I know they have it in them to be great supporters of the university."
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